This is the post a whole lot of people have been waiting for and so I must first apologize for the delay; something medical school provided was a sort of regimen, I used to have an idea of where I’d be and what I’d be doing at any time of the day – but post-school, all that changes lol.
Getting involved with the “Big Names” looks and actually is great, but the behind the scenes process isn’t a piece of cake. Now I only have one life so my advice is based on my personal experiences – this doesn’t mean it is the only way to go about this, neither does it mean it will work for everyone that tries it; this is just me telling you what I did.
ETP x Dr. Tedros, The Director General of the World Health Organization.
Now that I’ve gotten the disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive straight in!
1)Identify your passion.
This is something you’d need to do some soul searching to successfully carry out. Your passion is something you can gladly work on without getting paid – very simply put. What among the many things that are wrong with the world today bothers you the most? What would be the first thing you’d do if you became president of the world? If you could eradicate one global issue what would you choose? These are just a few of your starting questions that could get your mind rolling into gear.
Why is this important? Because you need to have a niche, you need to have something you are known for doing, and for doing it well. It’s no good trying to work on each Sustainable Development Goal and spreading yourself thin when you could focus that energy on one or two and make a tangible, positive change.
After you identify it, ask yourself why. Why do you care about this topic? Because when applying for opportunities you will be asked this severally so you need to ask yourself first – what will be achieved if this local/national/global problem is solved? Think about the effect in that three-tier approach: local, national and global.
ETP at the Palais des Nations (UN Headquarters, Geneva)
2)Identify others that have gone ahead.
So you’ve asked yourself all of the above questions in step 1 and you have answers that can fill more than two A4 papers in font size 12? Great! Now one cannot be an island in this life, especially when you want to help others, so now you need to find the people and organizations that are already working on your chosen topic – because these issues have been around for decades, so of course someone else has thought of working on it right? This is where I tell you – Google is your friend! This is where you literally google “Organizations working on (insert problem) in (insert your country)”. I personally advise you start as locally as possible, because it make it more likely for you to get physically involved, which is of course a plus. When you find organizations that are doing an amazing job in the field, but are far from you – still subscribe to receive their email updates/newsletter, because they will provide examples on what activities work, which you can emulate in your local environment.
ETP at the World Health Organization Headquarters, Geneva
So you’ve found organizations that work on your chosen issue, some nearby some further away – now it’s time to make contact. It’s now that you look out for volunteering opportunities with the organizations and apply. Since you have already written out your passion, filling the application form should be fairly simple. At this point, you are looking to demonstrate your passion, so volunteering is what you should focus on. Volunteering is often just seen as working for free, but actually it goes further than that – volunteering involves paying with your time, your most valuable resource. Anything worth doing is worth doing well right? So let’s say you are focusing on “Zero Hunger” and there’s a Food Drive happening near you, in order to prepare for it you’d have to read about the organization, find out the functions of volunteers, apply to be a volunteer, read/research around the area that the food drive is being held at so you can further understand the cause of the lack of food and thus begin to think of possible solutions. When the day comes, you are well-versed in the topic, the area and you have an idea to proffer as a solution – this is the type of person an organization will want to have on board; and thus the opportunity to do more surfaces.
ETP speaking about gender equality during an interview with Instagram at the United Nations Youth Assembly, UN Headquarters, New York City.
It’s one thing to volunteer for organizations, and another to take the initiative to act on the issue yourself. At this point, you have gained experience from volunteering for other organizations and you’ve seen the strategies that work and the ones that can be improved – now it’s time to act on your newfound knowledge. At this stage, you need to develop yourself, get training in the necessary skills needed to carry out an effective activity that works on your chosen issue. You can start small, with online trainings and short courses; the aim is to certify what you have gained experience in. So still on the food drive example, you learnt how to work with absolute strangers towards achieving a common goal – now you could take a short course on team building or communication skills – this way it is affirmed that you truly know what you say you know.
ETP speaking at the Pre Africa Union Summit, Gender is My Agenda Campaign at the United Nations Economic Commission Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
5)Get out there.
You’ve garnered experience from volunteering, writing essays, joining online campaigns etc – now it’s time to take that experience where others will value it. This is when you start applying for the “Big Names” in your field; once again, Google is your friend! You just search for international bodies working on the topic of interest, make a long list of them and just as you did with the local organizations, subscribe to receive updates and once opportunities surface – apply! Don’t think of yourself as too small, or your experiences as invaluable – don’t underestimate the power of passion. To have reached this stage, it means you have done a considerable amount of work at the local level and thus you have experiences that are unique to you which make them valuable – someone out there wants to learn from you, that person may have vast resources for use on the topic; but doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to know how best to apply it – this is where you come in. This is the major thing that happens at these High Level Meetings, United Nations Youth Assembly, World Health Assembly etc. – networking. Networking with people of like minds, are equally as or even more motivated about the topic than you, and coming together to bring about a solution.
I truly hope this post has helped! Please feel very free to ask questions in the comments, so if I missed something, others can learn too
Till next time,